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13,000 Stranded Due to High Risk of Avalanche at Zermatt, Switzerland Ski Resort

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Community workers remove snow off a path in Zermatt, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. – Photo Mateusz Bocian

ZERMATT, Switzerland – Officials in a town at the foot of Switzerland’s famed Matterhorn are resuming helicopter flights to ferry out stranded tourists amid efforts to open roads and rail lines that have been closed due to heavy snowfall and an elevated avalanche risk.

The Zermatt tourism office initially said a rail line from the town was due to partially reopen Wednesday, but then corrected that to say that the line would remain closed at least until the afternoon after helicopter crews spotted a new snow mass left from an avalanche days earlier.

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A police official in Zermatt, who was not authorized to give his name, said an estimated 300 to 400 people flew out the day before, when some 13,000 tourists were unable to leave by road or rail.

Local officials said no lives are in danger and the situation is calm, with cafes open and many streets clear.

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Helicopter teams were also deploying to trigger controlled avalanches to release snow buildup after more than 1 metre (39 inches) of snow fell in some parts of the region in 24 hours.

Frank Techel, an avalanche forecaster at Swiss avalanche research institute SLF, said that roughly 3-4 metres (about 10-13 feet) of snow had been dumped on the Zermatt area so far this year, which he called an “extraordinary” amount for the region in such a short span.

By Jamey Keaten – The Associated Press



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